California's Home Sharps Law Starts Today

A new state law goes into effect today prohibiting the disposal of home-generated sharps waste in California residents' trash or recycling containers and requiring that all such waste be transported to a collection center in an approved sharps container. This includes hypodermic needles, pen needles, intravenous needles, lancets and other devices that are used to penetrate the skin for medication administration.

Californians generate an estimated 400 million used sharps each year, many of which are improperly--and as of today illegally--disposed of as household trash. This presents a great risk to sanitation and sewage treatment workers, janitors, housekeepers, and children. State officials add that decreasing the number of sharps disposed in landfills will help prevent potential health risks to landfill and material recovery facility workers, as well.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board lists the following as some of the disposal options available to residents for disposal of sharps waste:

  • Pharmacies. Some drug store chains take back their customers' needles, although large quantities might not be accepted.
  • Mail-Back Service. A list of sharps waste mail-back services authorized for use in California is available from the California Department Of Public Health.
  • Local Household Hazardous Waste Program. Call your local household hazardous waste agency and ask if they collect needles (sharps) at their collection facilities or on household hazardous waste days. Some do, others do not. There are four places you can look for this information:
    -- Look in the Government section of your local white pages for a household hazardous waste listing for your city or county.
    -- Call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687), a service of Earth 911.
    -- Visit the Earth 911.org Web site, http://earth911.org/.
    -- See the Local Enforcement Agency Directory on CIWMB's Web site.
  • Local Jurisdiction Sharps Collection Programs. A file showing a sampling of local jurisdictions’ sharps collection programs and containing contacts, email addresses, program summaries, and outreach materials is available at www.ciwmb.ca.gov/hhw/sharps/LocalProgram.pdf. This spreadsheet could help jurisdictions that don’t have collection programs set up their own sharps collection program.
  • Hospital Take Back. Hospitals might take back needles (sharps) from those patients who go to the hospital for regular outpatient services.
  • Medical Waste Disposal Directory. If you are searching for facilities that collect sharps for disposal, the directory available at www.ciwmb.ca.gov/hhw/HealthCare/Collection/ enables you to locate one that is near to where you live or work.

CIWMB asks residents to remember that all trash is handled by people both at recycling facilities and at landfills. These people could be stuck by needles or other sharps that poke through their protective clothing, including heavy gloves and boots, which could result in serious injury, including infection by pathogens either from the needle user, or by pathogens that contaminate a needle after it is disposed. For more information, visit www.ciwmb.ca.gov/hhw/sharps/.

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